Night Shift as a Security Guard: What it is Really Like

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Are you someone who enjoys independence, the opportunity for advancement, and a sense of responsibility? Are you a night owl who prefers to stay up late? The role of a security guard or private security can have a stigma associated to it that we believe is unwarranted – so we’re here to show you what this job is really about!

The average night shift security guard’s job is one of routine. They make sure the status quo is maintained after the business closes. Boredom is the goal – we want to avoid or minimize fires, burglaries, electrical shorts, weather emergencies, and all manners of unpleasantness.

So, if the job’s goal is boredom, why would a person pursue such a career? What benefits could possibly justify going into work every day with the hope that nothing interesting happens? Well, being a night shift security guard carries with it several unique and very persuasive benefits that just might change a few minds.

Night Shift as a Security Guard – A Unique Career Choice

Private security is an acquired taste, though one easily attained. The average night shift security officer will perform tasks as mundane as checking locks on office doors to answering phones after hours. They will be asked to escort employees through dark parking lots as well as investigate odd noises. Being able to de-escalate confrontations is critical, as nobody ever genuinely wants an action movie to break out next to the coffee machine.

The range of incidents will be as far-reaching as they are unpredictable. Most nights will go completely without incident while some will be nerve-racking and uncertain. An experienced guard will be trained to handle both, straighten their necktie, then draft a detailed report in case legal action is pursued. It is a vastly misunderstood career, mainly because of the fact it takes place long after most people have called it a night. It is on that night, however, that the night shift guard punches their time clock and begins their workday. 

Entry Level Profession

Security professionals, while entrusted with the safety and security of entire buildings, are often recruited from the general public. While experience in related fields is definitely a plus, it is not always a necessity. And while armed guards, like those at banks or airports, do require specialized training and certification, most guards begin their careers as an entry-level security guards. This is not an insult, but more an opportunity.

As financial times change and technological trends shift, many people may find themselves in need of steady and reliable employment. While these people may be experts in their former professions, many have difficulty finding work in their particular niche. This is where an entry-level career can certainly help.

Private security certainly fills that role for many who are in transition to new careers to those interested in developing a career in security. The point is that one should not think the entry process is overly prohibitive.

Working in a call center is another job that welcomes entry-level staff. If you’re interested to learn more, this post will help.

Time Schedule for Night Shift Security Guards

Night shift guards typically begin between 22:00-00:00 (that’s 10:00p.m. to midnight) and end between 06:00-08:00 (which would be 6:00a.m. to 8:00a.m.) The reason the time is formatted in that way is for reporting purposes. Paperwork is a large part of a night guard’s responsibilities. Military time is used to avoid confusion.

This late shift can take some getting used to, though it does lead to a quiet work environment, surprisingly free of common stressors. Such a schedule opens the possibility to attend school, hold another job as well, spend time with family during daylight hours, and many other benefits.

If you’ve never worked the night shift before, we use these tools every day to make life a bit easier.

Night shift workers see a world many never will. Rush hour traffic, office politics, road construction, and all other annoyances of the common worker are seldom encountered by the night shift guard. So, while working in the dark every night may seem monotonous, you do get to watch the sunrise every morning. Better still, getting paid to do so. 

Here are some other great benefits when working night shift.

Video – Here is a video I produced on why I tolerate the night shift. It’s worth a watch if considering a night shift job or you’re craving some inspiration in your current role.

Overcoming Dangers

Expected dangers for a night shift guard depend solely on the location of employment. An industrial site may contain chemicals and machinery that are, at the very least, detrimental to one’s well-being if used incorrectly. A hospital may also contain chemicals, but also patients and communicable diseases. A guard may also be stationed in an office building, where the main challenge is electrical systems and elevators (as well as the ever-present paper cut.)

While these dangers seem to be negatives, they also present opportunities to master dealing with them.

As a guard rotates to new positions, new traits and skills are developed. Marketable skills. More importantly, the guard is not expected to deal with these problems alone. Most will have access to maintenance engineers, fire and police departments, alarm companies, and all manner of technicians. The guard is simply the first contact point of any problem, they are not expected to be the entire solution. 

Female security guard arms folded

Night Shift Security Guard Pay

The salary of a typical night guard varies wildly. A new guard fresh from high school may start their career overseeing a parking lot for slightly above minimum wage. A police officer moonlighting as a guard at a high rise may command a premium that rivals their day job. In fact, many guards are law enforcement or even military veterans (their ability to handle high-stress situations is in demand).

Pay scales are also seldom stagnant. A guard that is dependable is valued by their employer, especially if that guard is employed by a security firm, as opposed to any specific business. That guard can then be requested, leading to incentive pay. This also does not take into account the many ranks and designations of a security guard. Seniority, past performance, official title and duties are all factored into your compensation package. Later, as specialized skills ranging from vehicle, weapons, conflict resolution, and hazard pay are considered, a guard’s worth can skyrocket.

The final aspect of this is that many guards are eligible for overtime pay, which when stacked with other bonuses, incentives, and benefits, make the proposition extremely tempting.

You might be asking if the night shift differential is worth it. We explore the pros and cons here.

Autonomy and Trust

While a guard is expected to follow a patrol routine in most cases, they are given a wide margin of what else to do during their shift. A patrol is usually an assigned route of checkpoints verified by everything from scanning QR codes to a device with a spool of paper that is imprinted with keys at assigned locations. The purpose of these devices is to ensure the guard is in a specific location at any given time. This leads to vast amounts of time spent at a desk monitoring cameras or phones, with time available to study, research, or even take online classes to expand their skill set.

The level of trust a guard is given helps them develop a sense of responsibility enjoyed by very few other professions. It is exceedingly rare that one will be directly supervised, leading to the development of independent thought and problem-solving.

As many know, having a manager constantly hovering is not only detrimental to performance, it undermines morale. An experienced guard is reliable and generally trusted with a staggering amount of assets and materials, even at entry level. 

Stress Management Skills for Security Officers

When your job is to wait for problems to occur, it is understandable that a person might become stressed. Anxiety is quite a common side effect of a security career. Luckily, this can be turned into an advantage.

Whether it is dealing with a faulty alarm, a circuit breaker issue, or any of the many occasions a guard can, and will, encounter, there are simple solutions to all of them. In fact, it will be this certainty that makes the anxiety somewhat bearable. It becomes easier still when one realizes that they will solve these problems.

Encountering and dealing with stress and hardships is a skill that guards will develop that can apply to all other aspects of life. When one considers the variety of assignments many guards have, a large number of stressors can be encountered and overcome, making a much more adaptable guard and person.

Meeting and overcoming situations lead to confidence, and confidence coupled with competence is a very desirable combination.

Another way to manage the anxiety of the job is to be physically prepared. This means being armed with the most appropriate equipment and clothing for the job at hand. Most of the safety equipment you will need for the job should be provided by your employer, but you may consider the following to increase comfort both physically and emotionally.

Advancement Opportunities

As times have changed, many companies outsource their security needs to specialized firms. Companies that specialize in security have within themselves many tiers of employment. Where one may start off as a basic patrol-focused guard, they may progress to a private investigator, a computer IT specialist, personal security/bodyguard, or many other advanced positions. As with all other careers, these positions all come with their own risks and rewards, but all come with increased pay and benefits.

As noted above, even staying at the generalized security guard position, one can rise in rank to oversee an entire security team, forming relationships with lucrative clients. In fact, an especially effective guard may find themselves promoted as a customer relations executive, responsible for supporting these relationships and earning a reputation as a reliable contractor. Needless to say, such a contractor is in high demand and can command a salary that many would envy.

Reliable Employment

Unlike other entry-level employment opportunities, private security has been a reliable and relatively recession-proof industry. The simple fact is that as long as people have businesses and properties, they will want them secure.

Alarms, cameras, and all manner of technology are fine, but most people still feel comfortable having a sentient human being tasked with their protection.

Insurance companies prefer it as well, as companies receive massive breaks for employing a security guard instead of just relying on an automated system. Keep in mind, that as a security company invests in training and education, you become a valuable commodity to them. If you show particular promise with leadership potential, you certainly will become valuable enough to retain, even in challenging economic times.

So, to be frank, it is in everyone’s best interest for you to be employed. The insurance company relies on you to lower the risk, the business enjoys the lower premiums you incur, and your firm is paid for your presence. That’s three separate entities that all want you in that chair for as long as you are able. It’s a numbers game, and you are where it begins.

Networking Opportunities for Security Guards

Oddly enough, being alone in the middle of the night may not seem like a place to advance your career, but it can lead to opportunities one never considers.

If a law firm employs you to guard a building, you will regularly be in contact with lawyers working late. It is not uncommon to establish friendships with employees of any business you are tasked to guard.

Computer programmers, automotive designers, physics professors at a university, and all manner of people in between are all available. These friendships can and often do lead to new options when seeking employment.

Sometimes a particular president of a company may be impressed with the attentive nature of a guard and offer them an in-house position. They may even recommend the guard attend classes and come back in another role. Executive security very often leads to lucrative connections, both financial and personal. Whether those connections are used to bolster your career in security or perhaps to make a lateral move to another industry, they certainly are not time wasted. 

As seen, while not the most glamorous of jobs, a night shift security guard is an often entry-level position into a dynamic career with a future. Whether you wish to continue in security or parlay your skills into a new path, the opportunity is certainly available.

If the idea of being a private investigator is appealing, or tracking code to identify and neutralize a computer hack attempt excites, in a security firm, all these possibilities begin usually on a dark night in a random business, with the humble security patrol officer making sure the place isn’t about to burn down. 


Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

Female security guard talking on walkie talkie

Daniel Smith

Managing a global sales team I've experienced the challenges of working at all hours of the day and night. Being a shift worker I know how tough it can be balancing everyday life when you feel like you haven't slept in weeks! Providing advice and tips on how to manage your schedule, whilst still staying healthy is where I can help.

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